Welcome to the end of February and the end of week 25. Boy, I can’t for the temperatures to catch up with the week number! Here are the highlights from the past 7 days:
1. The Feedback Oreo – We recently began the Show Me Creative Writing Unit in Language Arts class. Students learn to write short, detailed, language-rich descriptions with specific word choice, sensory details, and metaphor. An integral component of this unit is the feedback or critique process. We begin by doing this as a class to model appropriate language and feedback. My students were doing a phenomenal job with this, so I brought in real Oreos as a treat. The Feedback Oreo = detailed compliment, detailed critique, detailed compliment. Each student walks away with specific ideas of how to improve their piece as well as a confidence boost.
2. Weekly Cooking – The best decision I ever made was to do all of my cooking for the week on Sundays. I make a couple of entrees for me and my husband – we split these up into individual portions for lunch and dinners. I often double the recipes and freeze half. Above, you will see a Vegetable Stir Fry, Egg Muffins, Thai Pad See Ew, Korean Beef Noodle Bowls, and a Chocolate Pie! Not having to worry about meals during the hectic week is a major stress reliever for me and helps me to continue eating healthfully.
3. Pizza Party – To celebrate the winners of the PBIS Video contest, we threw a pizza party last Friday. All of the 8th grade staff helped chip in with desserts, soda, and other treats. It’s great to stop and celebrate with the students – it’s a great time to build relationships and reinforce positive behaviors.
4. Celebrating – On Saturday night, my husband took me out to celebrate turning in Chapter 4 of my dissertation. We went to my favorite sushi restaurant, then to Gigi’s Cupcakes for dessert. I love spending time with my husband – yay date night! – and I have no idea what is better than sushi and cupcakes!
5. Money Challenge – Have you seen this on Pinterest? It’s a weekly plan to put away money with the goal of saving up $1,378 by the end of the year. Since I’d like to buy a nice DSLR camera, I thought this would be a great idea. I’ve been putting away the suggested weekly deposit, but I’ve also been putting away some of the larger deposits for the end of the year. I guess I figured it would be easier to make these more difficult deposits when I have the extra cash. Have you ever done a money challenge? I’m wondering how well people stick with it. Seems like a great idea!
BONUS 6. Cuteness – The boys got their hairs cut. LOVE them!
I hope you had a fabulous week! I’d love you to send me a link or tell me about it below!
S’long week 20, and welcome Quarter 3! Here are the week’s highlights.
1. Transcripts – A huge milestone on my way of reaching my New Year’s Goal to finish my dissertation, I finally finished transcribing over 24 hours of videotapes and interviews. You’re looking at 12 two-hour student interviews, over 120 pages. Feels so good to be on to data analysis now!
2. Breakfast – These egg muffins are the perfect grab-and-go breakfast for teachers. I can’t even believe I’ve gone my whole career and never discovered these. So easy! I make a big batch on the weekends, and my husband and I have them as a quick breakfast on the run. I microwave them for 1 minute, et voila! To make them, I begin by sautéing any vegetables I happen to have in my fridge, add diced ham or bacon, then stir that all into 8 eggs, a dash of coconut milk, and a dash of coconut flour (with lemon zest and fresh cracked pepper). YUM! And it’s all of your food groups in one healthy bite!
3. PBIS Videos– You may have seen my post from earlier in the week about the PBIS Video Project that my students are working on this week. They are having so much fun, and I love seeing how creative they can get. Across 3 classes, I have 20 different groups making 20 very different final products. In the photos above, you can see on the left that they are editing using iMovie. I love the picture on the right of my brave group that is demonstrating how to behave appropriately on the playground (Side note: It is 3 degrees outside, and they are coming inside to warm up between takes. “Where are your mittens?” I ask, and am answered with blank stares…) It’s been a great week, and a much needed break from traditional reading and writing!
4. Florida Oranges – We have a sweet aunt who lives in Naples. For the past couple of years, just when Winter has officially overstayed its welcome, she sends us a care package of native Florida Citrus. This is a LOT of oranges, people! We can’t possibly eat them all, so I will enjoy spreading the sunshine even more! Mmmmm… delicious!
5. Adolescent Literature – To gear up for my upcoming graduate class that I will be teaching, I am reading and rereading a few favorites that will become required texts for my class. We are definitely going to read Readicide and The Book Whisperer, but then as a class we will select 3 other adolescent fiction books to read and use for our book chats. Which 3 would you pick? Or did I miss your favorite?
6. Minor Disruption – Okay so you tell me how productive you think we were after the custodian zipped by our room on a giant Zamboni. Hilarious! I just had to pause and take a picture, because we were all laughing so hard!
Having off of work is GREAT!!!! For the last 3 days, I have been cooking and baking like a madwoman. I’d love to share some photos and recipes with you. By the way, all of the food below is Paleo, which means grain and dairy-free.
1. Vegetable Omelet – just egg, unsweetened almond milk, peppers, tomato, broccoli, and avocado on top at the end.
2. Baked Kale – delicious! Just put a bunch of kale in a bowl, add a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix. Then spread the kale on a baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, garlic, and ground pepper, bake for 10 minutes at 350, et voila!
3. Bacon – I bake the bacon on a metal rack on top of a baking sheet so the grease can drip off. Make sure to line the baking sheet with aluminum foil for easier cleanup. 350 for 20-30 minutes.
4. Salmon in a Bag – I cut 6 round slices of lemon to line the bottom of a piece of aluminum foil, then placed the salmon on top. I sprinkled the salmon with salt and garlic, then topped with a few thin tabs of butter. Close up the aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until the fish flakes apart and is cooked through.
5. Cardamom Thumbprint Cookies & Peppermint Macaroons dipped in Chocolate – I am a Norwegian, so I couldn’t resist trying the Thumbprint Cookies for christmas. The cookies turned out fantastic, and I will add that you really need to beat the vanilla frosting for at least 10 minutes to get the consistency you desire. I plan to add red and green food coloring for something festive 🙂 The Peppermint Macaroons turned out deliciously as well, but I will use less peppermint extract next time. Dipping the bottoms in dark chocolate (and licking the spoon!) was the best part!
6. Gyro meatballs and Tzatziki Sauce – this is BY FAR my favorite thing I have made! I used high grade ground sirloin, and I also pan-friend them after baking them to give a nice brown crisp to the meatballs. For the Tzatziki sauce, I used coconut milk instead of coconut cream or yogurt, and this was a mistake. It still tasted fantastic, but was a bit watery.
7. Party Tray – I made this for a party I attended. Crackers, 2-year aged cheddar, salami, goat cheese, almond cheddar spread, pistachios, almonds, and strawberries. Obviously the crackers and cheese are not Paleo, but the rest is proof that you can enjoy Paleo snacks with your friends!
8. Banana Nut Muffins – these are mostly just bananas and eggs with very little flour. They taste pretty eggy to me, but perhaps I should have used more ripened bananas. They are great warmed up with a touch of butter.
9. Homemade Granola – My husband and I just love this. It is absolutely better tasting than any granola I have ever purchased. I will make this again! Next time, though, I will add more nuts because there is quite a bit of the honey-mixture to go around.
I have been absolutely in love with cooking and baking lately. I’ve gone from being an ‘everything-from-a-package’ girl to a ‘home-made’ girl, and I hope I never go back! I honestly didn’t know I had it in me. I used to just think I was a terrible cook, and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. The thing is, I come from a family of great cooks – my mom, my grandma – and I just wanted to make them proud and live up to our family name.
So, I decided I was going to practice and practice and teach myself to be a good cook. These past 2 weeks, I’ve baked salmon, brined and roasted chicken, created a butternut squash soup from scratch, baked homemade cookie bars, made protein bites, chili, braised beef, baked acorn squash with homemade applesauce, julienned zucchini spagetti, cooked waffles, and on and on and on. My husband loves it, because the fridge is always full of wonderful healthy foods 🙂
I’ve been pulling out all of these gadgets that people gifted us for our wedding, but I never used. I am finally using our stand mixer regularly, as well as our waffle iron, blender, food processor, tools like a zester, masher, and press, and – as always – my beloved crock pot.
Now that I have my kitchen operating at full-steam, I see there are a few items I would like to add to the already-stuffed cupboards. Below is my current kitchen wish list – oh a girl can dream!
Wherever you are in the world, you may be aware of the winter disasters happening all over the south and midwest. My sister was stuck in Dallas for 2 days waiting for a flight back to Wisconsin. Here in Milwaukee, the highway is a parking lot, and the snow is falling heavily and consistently. My mom was supposed to go to work today, but after spending 45 minutes on the highway and getting no where, she called in and headed home. I hate thinking about my family out in this weather – it makes me so nervous!
I haven’t left the house…. or my pajamas (tee hee). The dogs are doing their best to cuddle and stay warm, too.
I’ve been cooking and baking ALL morning and afternoon. Sometimes, the cooking bug just hits ya and you gotta go with it, you know? I figure something like, “Hey, the oven’s all ready warmed.” Or, “The kitchen’s already a mess.” Even, “I’ve already opened the bag/can/jar of __, may as well just finish it?”
So yeah, I went a little nuts. Here is what I’ve made this weekend so far. Everything is Paleo friendly – only whole foods, no grains, gluten, dairy, or refined products. (Click on the list below for links to the recipes):
1. Bacon! In the oven, I lay the bacon across a metal drying rack placed on a baking sheet to allow the grease to drip. 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
2. Energy Balls These were supposed to be bars, but they weren’t holding together very well. Maybe they needed a touch of coconut oil? Consists of: almonds, cranberries, figs, chocolate chips.
3. Heart Chili This recipe took a while – browning the ground beef, sautéing the vegetables, then searing the beef cubes. It was not a ‘just throw it all in the crock pot’ kind of recipe, but it does taste delicious.
4. Cauliflower Rice A delicious Paleo alternative to rice. I will say that my food processor sure got a workout this weekend! I didn’t have all of the spices the recipe called for on hand, so I just used sea salt, ground pepper, and cajun spices.
5. Strawberry Protein Balls These are a hit with my husband. I don’t think they’ll keep very long, so I am going to enjoy them quickly.
6. Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins I love taking these to work for a quick and filling breakfast. And you know what else I love? My new silicone baking cups. I’m never going back to paper! And now I need to buy the blue pack too (hint: these are a great stocking stuffer for the foodie in your life)!
With all this food in my fridge, I still sit here hungry, not sure what to eat! Ah, dilemmas dilemmas. Maybe I’ll bake some salmon 🙂
Our family tradition is to spend the weekend after Thanksgiving decorating the house for Christmas. We put up the tree and Christmas lights, which is such a fun thing to do as a family. I have one very important message for our new dog, Ruffy: Thou shalt not lift thine leg on the Christmas tree. And I mean it!
Since I was in the spirit, I also decided to cook up a storm this weekend. It’s great to have a fridge full of prepared foods that are ready to go. I spent practically the entire weekend in the kitchen. I’ve run the dishwasher 4 times in the past 2 days, sheesh! My husband assures me that our dishwasher is eco-friendly and actually uses less water and resources than handwashing, so that’s good.
I’d love to show you what I made. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am trying to switch to a Paleo diet. I am doing this slowly, and I’m up to 2 meals a day plus snacks. Hopefully I can make the permanent, full switch and stick with it!
This recipe is from Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC. The recipe is actually for a pie filling, but I decided to make it into a frozen treat instead. Next time, I would add little sticks to make popsicles, yum! Ingredients: fresh raspberries, lemon zest and juice, medjool dates, and coconut oil and butter.
Homemade Apple Sauce
I keep saying to my husband, “This was so easy to make, and it tastes SO much better than store-bought apple sauce. Why wouldn’t anyone just make their own?” This is a Paleo applesauce with only 3 ingredients: apples, honey, and water (oh, and a dash of cinnamon). Tastes phenomenal, and no added sugar! Find the recipe here.
This recipe is also from the book Practical Paleo. I got to use my food processor a lot this weekend! These taste wonderful and actually don’t use too many eggs (only 3). I plan to warm them up for breakfasts throughout the week, in addition to my Paleo Waffles I blogged about on Thanksgiving.
Apple Cider Beef Roast
I also came up with my own ‘recipe’ for a beef shoulder/roast I picked up at the grocery store. First, I added coconut oil, sea salt, and black pepper and pan-seared the roast in a skillet – a couple of minutes, just enough to seal in the flavor. Then I transferred the meat and oils to a casserole dish which I filled with apple cider (not covering the meat, but probably about an inch high). I see now that I need to purchase a Dutch oven – hint, Christmas gift! I baked the roast at 400 degrees for about an hour. It was very juicy and tasty! I served it with a side of baked yams and roasted squash. P.S. The dogs LOVE squash. Who knew? I always try to sneak a few vegetables into their food, and this one was a hit!
Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Here’s a link to the recipe for these amazing chocolate chip cookie bars. I added walnuts to mine. My husband and I are definitely going to fight over these!
Later this week, I hope to make these Energy Bars. You know, my favorite thing about Paleo recipes is how SIMPLE they are! Just a couple of ingredients, things I already have on hand, and nothing crazy or exotic I have to go to a speciality grocery store to find. It’s perfect for me and my busy teacher lifestyle!
I have one more thing to share with you all regarding Paleo foods. I found a great new blog called Nom Nom Paleo. She’s great! She recommended this Spiral Vegetable Slicer. I have wanted one of these for a while, and the reviews were great and the price was right – I ordered it! Excited to give this a try. Squash spaghetti, anyone?
It is definitely my favorite holiday of the year. FOOD FOOD FOOD!
Between my husband and myself, we have 3 families to visit on Thanksgiving. Since my mother had to work on Thanksgiving for early Black Friday Sales (ARG!!), we only visited my husband’s 2 families this year. We will celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom on New Years when the holiday sales and craziness are over.
I did really well keeping with the Paleo diet – Thanksgiving is kind of a perfect holiday for that! I stuck with the meats and vegetables. I also started the day out with an amazing Paleo breakfast. You can find the recipe for the Paleo Waffles here. I made a full batch on Thursday, and I’ve been warming them up the leftovers for breakfast.
I recently purchased a copy of Practical Paleo by Dianne Sanfilippo, BS, NC. It has a wealth of information about eating whole foods. The idea of ‘Paleo,’ which is short for Paleolithic, is to return to the pre-agriculture, pre-industrialization diet that our human bodies were designed to consume. If you consider just the last 100 years, with the invention of the refrigerator and chemical preservatives, our bodies haven’t kept up evolutionarily to handle all of these new foods. You could also call Paleo the ‘Whole Foods’ diet or the Gluten-free diet. You get back to the basics of eating foods that don’t come in packages or boxes and have nothing but all natural ingredients. Flour, grains, sugar, and dairy are off-limits. Fruit, veggies, meat, and nuts are in. Pretty simply actually.
Sanfilippo explains that many of the chronic conditions and diseases that plague our modern society can be attributed to a diet high in gluten, sugar, and dairy that our bodies are unable to process. Eliminating these foods from your diet can have an extremely positive effect on your overall health, not to mention your waistline. Since I have several chronic conditions from IBS to rosacea, this seemed like a really attractive diet to adopt.
Since ‘Going Paleo’ full time seemed scary to me, I decided to wade in slowly. I’d try one meal a day – breakfast – since we all know that it is the most important meal of the day. My typical breakfast includes a bowl of cereal with almond milk, but I’m hungry again in an hour. And then in another hour. And I’m starving by lunch. So I figured hey – what have I got to lose by trying something new? Hopefully, I’ll find a new way to feel fuller longer and regulate my blood sugar to sustain my energy for the morning.
I started at the grocery store where I filled my cart with smart choices
When I got home, I began preparing a few new foods to try for breakfast. Sanfilippo has some very simple but delicious recipes in her book.
Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
I hard-boiled a half-dozen eggs as well so they are ready-to-grab. My lunches for the past 3 weeks have been chicken and vegetables with an apple, so that puts me at 2 Paleo meals a day actually – yay!
Okay, an alternate title for this post could be “Kristen’s Lazy Chicken Noodle Soup.” I’m not too proud to admit it – I’ll take shortcuts when I can. Teachers are busy, man!
So one of my favorite cooking tricks is what I call ‘Soup Hacking.’ I take a soup mix and ‘hack’ it by adding tons of stuff to it to make it a hearty meal. For lunches this week, I chose chicken noodle soup.
I start with a mix by Bear Creek. Then, I add frozen vegetables and chicken (to other soups, I add pasta, rice, beans, etc.). If I have time, I prefer to grill the chicken or cook it in the slow-cooker, but this week I went for the even-easier rotisserie chicken. I just throw all the ingredients together and boil for 10 minutes – so simple!
Cooking all of this food would have made 10 meals, so I cut everything in half to make 5 lunches. The total cost comes to $10.05 or $1 per meal! I also keep nutrition in mind: each meal contains about 200 calories, 6 grams of fat, 14 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.
Around this time of year, I start craving my grandma’s oatmeal bread. It’s filling, nutritious (well, it has oatmeal in it!), and it reminds me of fall and home and Grandma’s house. This is a staple in our house, and I hope it will become one in yours, too!
* 1 cup oatmeal (I used old-fashioned)
* 1/2 cup butter or margarine
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1/2 cup brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1 tsp. vanilla
* 1 & 1/2 cups flour
* 1/4 tsp. salt
* 1 tsp. baking soda
* 1 tsp. cinnamon
* 1/2 cup nuts (optional. I like walnuts)
* 1 & 1/4 cup boiling water
To start, I get out all of the ingredients:
Next, you’ll want to put the oatmeal and butter in a large bowl, then pour the boiling water over the entire mixture. You need to let this stand until all of the butter is melted and the mixture is cool. Once the butter is melted, you can put it in the fridge to speed up the cooling process. All about a half-hour for this.
(Yes that is my crazy awesome fridge with the Instagram magnets. My husband and I collected them over years and ordered them from StickyGram.)
While that is cooling, prepared all of your other ingredients. You’ll want the sugars in one bowl and all of the other solids (flour, soda, salt, cinnamon) in another bowl.
Then, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 1 large bread pans or 2 small bread pans. I prefer 1 large pan.
Once your mixture is cool, begin by adding the sugars.
Then the vanilla and eggs. (Psst – I actually use this amazing vanilla I bought in Mexico – it’s the best ever!)
And finally, add the flour mixture, a half at a time.
Then, it all goes into the pan, and off to the oven for 50-60 minutes (mine took 58 minutes)
Check with a toothpick to make sure it is completely cooked through. The last part is the hardest – actually allow the bread to cool off before you cut and eat it. Yes, I realize it smells amazing and you’ll want to devour it right away, but patience is a virtue, and burned hands and tongues don’t feel so nice. I feel your pain.
I love to heat up a couple of slices in the microwave, add some butter, and enjoy with some tea for a lovely, filling fall breakfast. Enjoy!